Tubbataha Reef is situated in the center of Sulu Sea. This National Marine Park is 181 km from the southeast of Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Tubbataha came from combined Samal words which means long reef exposed at low tide.
Tubbataha Reef is a ground of coral island surrounded by a lagoon. It has two atolls: the North reef that has a length of 16 km; and the South Reef which is 5 km long and 3 km wide. The two atolls are separated by deep channel with a width of 8 km.
The Tubbataha boasts of wide varieties of coral assemblage. There are 49 coral genera which covers 70 to 80% of the reef slopes and edges. The marine park is one of the oldest Philippine ecosystems since the reef formation began around 15 million years ago within the eruption of the chain of volcanoes along the Cagayan Ridges.
There are over one thousand species dwelling in the reef, many of those are already endangered. Past researches conducted in the area had recorded 396 species of corals, 479 species of fish, species of sharks, sea turtles, and marine mammals.
The marine ecosystem is so big that it has networks of smaller ecosystem. From biggest fish such as whale shark down to the smallest organism such as marine plankton, that depends on each other for its survival. The reef serves as a breeding ground for the sea turtles and endangered bird species. Other species seen in the area are stringrays, spinylobsters, leopard sharks, giant jacks, barracudas, parrot fish, hammerhead sharks, guitar sharks, snappers, lion fish, tortoise, clownfish, grey reef sharks and manta rays.
The remoteness of the reef and the 12 hours voyage has been a great shield against exploitation. Fishermen visit the area seasonally for temporary shelter. The park has been considered as the best dive site in the Philippines for its great underwater visibility and the underwater caves swarming with marine life and the coral walls with extensive colonies of fish.
Aside from being a marine sanctuary, the reef also serves as a temporary refuge of migrating birds. Some of the birds that nest here are thousands of masked red-foot boobies, terns and frigate birds.
In order to protect the park President Gloria Macapacal Arroyo extended the boundaries of the park by 200%, it is now 968.24 sq km in size and guarded by armed rangers 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Tourist and dive operates are oriented to the regulations within the area to minimize the negative impact of diving activities.
Tubbataha Reef Marine Park
Date of Inscription: 1993
click to visit UNESCO page